Handicapping > PANDYCAPPING

by Bob Pandolfo

Bob Pandolfo, a.k.a. "Pandy," has been writing about harness and thoroughbred racing and handicapping for over 40 years. His popular "Pandycapping" column has appeared in many publications, including The Daily Racing Form, and Sports Eye. He has also been published in Hoofbeats magazine, American Turf Monthly, and other publications.

A Lot of People Are Promoting Harness Racing

By Bob Pandolfo

I first started covering harness racing as a handicapper and writer for Sports Eye (now, DRF/ Harness) back in 1975. In those days, harness racing was also covered by the major newspapers. Although the sport is not as popular as it was back then, it's not like no one's trying. The sport is still reported on in newsletters and magazines. And, the internet is buzzing with different people and groups that promote the sport. Heather Vitale, Ryan Macedonio, Freddie Hudson, Post Time with Mike and Mike, Rod Allums, Jr., and others, showcase the sport on Podcasts, video, and live shows at various different tracks. There are also popular harness pages on Facebook.

I spoke to Rod Allums, Jr. about his group, North American Harness Update (nahupicks.com ), which started in October 2017. Allums is a former driver/trainer whose career was shortened by injuries. Over the past three years he's teamed with college student Ray Cotolo and former owner Mike Pribozie to promote harness racing. They feature a Podcast every Friday and they offer free picks and analysis for five different harness tracks, with picks every day on the website. They also have a streaming app for Amazon firestick TV for Nahupicks.

But they take it a step further and make live appearances at racetracks. For instance, they were at Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs for the Sun Stakes night a few Saturdays ago. They'll be at the Hambletonian at the Meadowlands. They talk about the races, interview horsemen, grooms, and other people that aren't always interviewed. Some tracks broadcast them on the live video feed at the track.

I asked Allums how he can afford to do this.

"We get sponsorship from the Hambletonian Society and some of the tracks," Allums said.

Moira Fanning, the outstanding publicity director at the Hambletonian, has been a big help.

"We aren't in it to make a lot of money," Allums said. "If tracks covered our travel and dinner expenses we'd be at every track."

One of Allums favorite tracks is Running Aces in Columbus, Minnesota. "Running Aces, The Meadowlands, and Mohawk, are three tracks that do a good job of keeping people entertained between races," Allums said. "I think if you want to get the younger generation interested in coming to the track, it helps if you have the kind of atmosphere that they do at the arena sports, where fans are kept busy during intermissions."

"Running Aces does a great job, overall," Allums said. "In this day in age, I don't see why racetracks can't at least offer a free online digital program. Running Aces has the program free on its website, and they offer free parking, free admission, free seating. They're a leader in marketing their product. They engage other people that want to market their product. Information is very important, especially if you want to attract new fans. Running Aces also has three different handicapper's picks on their website, plus they link to our website. They have a card room where they offer gambling on card games like Poker and Blackjack, but they'll be profitable from racing. Young people want to have fun and be engaged while trying to learn. Show them a good time and teach them."

Running Aces does have more information on their website than most tracks, and even gives you the takeout rates.

On their Podcast and live shows from the tracks, North American Harness Update keeps it positive and lighthearted.

"We don't discuss anything negative," Allums said. "And we keep it lighthearted. We like to have a good time so we joke around and have fun with it. ESPN used to be the leader in sports. Foxsports is the leader now, but they have new content, they're more opinionated, more fun, not like a newscast."

Allums also tries to communicate with tracks on how to provide future growth opportunities for the sport. We discussed some of the keys to the pari-mutuel sport.

"I like to bet the Pick 4 and Trifectas," Allums said. "But at harness tracks, I'm not interested in some of the low minimum bets, like the ten cent superfectas. I feel that it makes it too easy to spread and you end up with lower payoffs. You can get away with ten cent wagers on big days when the handle is much higher, but on regular nights, I think the $1.00 minimum Trifecta is a better option, with better payoffs. Running Aces has $1.00 Trifectas with a 23% takeout and the payoffs are good."

I mentioned that I got interested in harness racing betting superfectas in New York. But they only had one superfecta a night, and it was a $3.00 minimum. The pools were huge. People would actually pool their money and try to hit it together.

"Years ago at Sportsmen's Park, they had a $3.00 minimum trifecta," Allums said. "I agree, the payoffs were big, it was a good bet."

"Churn is important in betting," Allums said. "You want as many linier bets as possible, win, place, show, exactas, trifectas, superfectas, because that's where most of the money is bet. You don't want multiple-race exotics every race. Although I like the Pick 4, if I've got $100 bet on the Pick 4, I'm not going to bet as much in those races because my money is already tied up. I like the Pick 4, but you can't have too many bets like that on one card."

Allums feels that his group helps the track, especially when they're live on track. "Last year was the first year we did analysis for Running Aces, and their handle went up by 30%. When people come to the track for the first time, they don't know what's going on. If you give them more information, they're more likely to come back. We've also helped increase handle at other tracks like Western Fair and Rosecroft."

Allums has suggestions for harness tracks. "The time slot is important. Dover Downs, for instance, starts at 4 p.m., eastern time. This is a bad time to generate handle, or for sports contests in general. That's why you don't see other sports starting games at 4 o'clock. Each track needs to solidify its time slot.

"I also think that some tracks would benefit from larger fields, even if they have to run less races. Most players who are going to get serious about betting horses don't like betting favorites. That's why bettors like full fields. I think they could have a few horses in the second tier, maybe twelve or fourteen horse fields. That forces the drivers to be more aggressive, and, it means that the outside flow is active right from the start of the race. The race is more exciting and the payoffs would be better."

We also chatted about racing longer distances to cut down on the inside speed bias that hurts the sport. I like the idea of racing longer distances than a mile, but sometimes people complain about the handicapping factor, with the fractions and final times being different.

"I was driving at Maywood when they made the races longer," Allums said. "USTA rules allow you to have a sixteenth of a mile run up to the timer, which is what Maywood did. So every race was a mile and a sixteenth, but it was only timed from the one mile marker. It does make it much easier for horses to leave from outside posts.

"I've found that racing insiders hate anything that's not traditional," Allums said. "Maybe it's time to step outside the box you've been in for the last fifty years."

Allums, a former harness driver, still hops in the bike occasionally and when he does, he has a camera on his helmet. "It's a live feed," he said. "Again, trying to have some fun and make it interesting."

Allums has a positive attitude about the sport.

"Overall, in terms of dollars wagered, the sport is in good shape. Wagering handle is up. As for perception, when we talk to newcomers, perception is good. The general public that's just starting to follow the sport does not view it negatively."

Editor's Note: The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.

To find out more about Pandy’s handicapping theories check out his www.trotpicks.com or www.handicappingwinners.com websites, or his horses to watch list at www.drf.com/harness and his Meadowlands selections at www.ustrotting.com. You can email Bob at pandy@handicappingwinners.com


My harness handicapping book, TROTPICKS: Modern Harness Handicapping, is the highest rated harness handicapping book on Amazon. You can order it through my www.trotpicks.com website for $39.99 plus shipping, or email me at pando4444@gmail.com if you want to order with a credit card or through the mail.
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If you'd like to order "THE HARNESS DIAMOND SYSTEM" software, send check or money order for $117.97 to Pandymonium Publications, 112 Michael Ct, Northampton, PA. 18067, or go to www.trotpicks.com to order with credit card or Paypal. We will send you the CDROM, complete instructions, and two booklets, including a BONUS Money Management method and a 33 page booklet entitled Money Angles & Methods, The Thinking Mans Guide to Money Management for the Harness Diamond System.

For more information on "Pandycapping" contact:

Bob Pandolfo
Pandymonium Publications
818 Washington Ave
Northampton, PA. 18067
home phone: 610-502-0405



 Pandycapping/FREE Big M Picks
  by Bob Pandolfo

Bob Pandolfo, a.k.a. "Pandy," has been writing about harness and thoroughbred racing and handicapping for over 40 years. His Meadowlands selections are FREE all season long.

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